It looks as though Nokia hopes to take the idea of customer personalization to an entirely new level. Today the phone-maker published what is being called a 3D-Printing Development Kit, empowering anyone with access to right kind of 3D printer to produce a customized, replacement shell for their Lumia 820 smartphone.

3D printing, if you've somehow missed it, allows for the creation of three-dimensional objects through a device that often times most closely resembles an inkjet printer. By punching 3D instructions into a computer, a such a device can be told how to construct an object and then meticulously "print" it out, layer by layer. Instead of ink though, these printers often use materials like resins, glues and cellulose which give these objects their rigid structure.

The 3DK, Nokia says, will not only provide schematics but also includes other useful information for those reasonably-versed in 3D printing, such as recommendations for materials, case specifications, best practices and tips for customization.

So far, these few 3D printer schematics are available on Nokia's website:

  • The mechanical drawings of Nokia Lumia 820 back panel for 3D printing (all parts)
  • Mechanical drawings of the Nokia Lumia 820 back shell for 3D printing (STP)
  • Mechanical drawings of the Nokia Lumia 820 back shell for 3D printing (shell separated)

Nokia is the first smartphone manufacturer to pitch such an idea, but it may be ahead of its time – 3D printers aren't exactly commonplace yet as they remain fairly price prohibitive.

However, maybe – just maybe – the idea isn't too far ahead though. Staples recently announced it would gradually roll out its own 3D printing services across Europe. Before consumers run to their local office supply store though to stamp out new shells and cases for their smartphones, those printers will need to be able to produce a highly durable, "plasticky" product – I don't believe the Mcor IRIS printers Staples plans on using will fit that bill, exactly.